Jul 13, 2010

[Books] The Elves of the Cintra (Genesis of Shannara Book 2)

The Elves of the Cintra (Genesis of Shannara Book 2)Terry Brooks sort of followed an unofficial pattern in the structure of his Shannara books back in the day. In the middle of his multi-book story arcs, the middle title tends to involve exploring the world of the elves in more detail. You can see this in The Elfstones of Shannara and The Elf Queen of Shannara. Why he chooses go this particular path is a bit beyond me - maybe it's just something he does for luck or something. Then again, the Elven nation will always remain to be one of the the more interesting races in his stories.

Other tropes of the Shannara universe include the reliance on the blue elfstones as a primary plot device. The are after all seeking stones and thus are design to drag the characters to their desired goal and double as a very effective weapon against the magical forces out in the world. It just always irked me that for some reason there are no other major elfstones in the world beyond these blue ones. Sure there's the Loden, but it's a lot more limited in its function and it tends to just be a major plot device object and little else, if you get my drift.

But despite tropes like this, there's certainly a degree of comfort in reading the works of Terry Brooks. Sure, the concepts can get pretty dark but in the end there's a certain reliability that hope wins out in the end and things will be nice and happy in time.

The Elves of the Cintra is the second book in Terry Brooks' Genesis of Shannara series. The books are meant to bridge the Word & Void series with his Shannara series, but we have to get through the apocalypse known as the great wars first in order to do so.

The story begins right where Armageddon's children left off - Hawk and Tessa were thrown off the top of the compound only to disappear in a flash of light. Then almost on cue, the massive armies of the demon Findo Gask sound the war drums on the horizon as hundreds of ships filled with his forces of demons and once-men start their siege of the small community. Logan Tom is left to try and get out of the compound in order to rejoin the Ghosts. On the outside, Panther and Sparrow are isolated by fleeing groups of Croaks and other mutants given they were waiting for Logan Tom. And the rest of the Ghosts are left to prepare supplies for their exodus while wondering about the fate of the rest of the adoptive family.

In another part of the world, Hawk awakes to find himself with none other than (wait for it...) - the King of the Silver River! This favorite character-saving device from the Shannara books was already around in this period and he goes on to explain what Hawk needs to do next.

A painting of the Ellcrys from Terry Brooks' o...Image via Wikipedia
And in what soon becomes the bulk of this particular title, Kirisin and Erisha are desperately trying to find clues to the locations of the elfstones in the Elven Histories when they are caught by the old historian Culph. In another part of Arborlon, the Knight of the Word Angel Perez and her tatterdemalion Ailie arrive in the Cintra with their charge to assist with the search for the elfstones. However the King is reluctant to take their help and Ailie reveals that there's the stench of a demon all over the palace, and thus the Elves may already be compromised.

The book plays out with elements reminiscent of the two other elf-focused titles from the Shannara books except for the lack of a major castle siege. If anything, that was a bit of a change since everyone seemed to be focused on leaving major population centers in order to see about their respective quests around the region. I'm not yet sold on the elves in this story arc given they're not quite as compelling as the last one. Kirisin is your classic reluctant hero archetype (like the entire Shannara family tree) but the others seem like so much background noise. Kind of a shame that we don't have as many interesting characters this time around.

The Ghosts got a bit more annoying as the wandering Lost Boys of sorts and the challenges that they had to face were a bit meh. In fact, many parts of their journey reminded me of the post-apocalyptic wanderings in Steven King's Dark Tower series, complete with automated sentries. Let's face it - without Hawk to lead them, they just don't seem like very interesting characters. Brooks certainly tried to give some of them a bit more depth this time around. However the old "every kid gets a shining moment" strategy just seems a bit out of place given the environment.

And as for the demons, they seemed very one-dimensional this time around. You'd expect the changeling demon hidden in Arborlon to try and be a bit more strategic and analytical or something as a deep cover agent but his whole "master plan" just seemed really weird once the story came to a close. I mean come on, THAT was it? You have the power of that massive wolf-girl-demon-thing and you can shapeshift into anything and yet you just...argh. Sad, sad demons. Hopefully Findo Gask will show everyone why he's been alive for so long in the last book and make me appreciate the demon agenda once more.

The Elves of the Cintra is a lighter title compared to the first book in the series, but that also resulted in losses elsewhere in the plot. It gets 3 classic Terry Brooks whining-about-the-difficulty-of-the-quest moments out of a 5.
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